Garden Design For The Climate – A comfortable garden needs a balance between sun and shade, through the day and through the year, and once you know which way your property faces, you can plan for it quite easily.
We all know that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and is at its highest at noon, when it’s never quite overhead, but somewhere to the south. This is why the south side of the house gets the sun and the north side is in its own shade for most of the year. But not in summer, because the summer sunrise and sunset are quite a bit to the north of an east-west line.
This means that at midsummer, the hot afternoon sun will hit your ‘shady’ north side patio at about mid-afternoon and stay there for the rest of the day, upsetting any shade-loving plants growing there. Unshaded paving will absorb a lot of the heat and radiate it into the house long after sunset.
Conversely, the winter sun moves to the south and doesn’t rise so high; shadows are longer, and that spot you chose in July for the vegetable garden because it was so sunny may turn out to receive no winter sun at all, and precious little in fall and spring.
The ideal aspect for outdoor living is the south or south-east side of the house, where the winter sun is assured. An area of paving here can reflect its warmth into the house, but you’ll need to provide shade for the summer. You could rig up awnings or sun umbrellas, but the natural shade of trees is cooler (the constant transpiration of water from their leaves acts as an effective natural air conditioner).
Deciduous trees let the winter sun through their bare branches, plant them on the east for the early winter sun. Evergreens can go to the north, and maybe the west, too, as during a very hot summer the thick foliage can offer welcome protection from the afternoon sun.
Tall trees shading the roof of a bungalow or ground-floor extension can make quite a difference to your comfort inside, while large areas of glass cry out for shade. Remember that once the sun gets into your rooms, so does the heat. If shade trees will dominate the garden too much, don’t forget the climate-control device of the vine-covered pergola. A pergola needn’t always be attached to the house, but can be positioned in the garden, too.